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Law Enforcement and Counter Terrorism in Post-9/11 Germany

Gad J. Bensinger

The low priority given to surveillance of suspected Islamic extremists in Germany before the
September 11 attacks in the United States, coupled with Germany’s fragmented and
decentralized structure of law enforcement, contributed to the failure of the German
intelligence services and the police to prevent the planning of the 9/11 attacks by what is now
known as the Hamburg terrorist cell. Consequently, in the aftermath of the attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the shocked and embarrassed German government
enacted anti-terrorist legislation that provided greater freedom to law enforcement to act
against suspected terrorists. In Germany, as in some other countries, the war on terrorism has
aroused opposition by some who regard the new policies to be threatening civil liberties.
Among other things, this article discusses the organizational structure and mission of
Germany’s major law enforcement agencies, as well as shifts in policy guidelines and the
investigative priorities undertaken to enhance the ability of the authorities to counter
terrorist threats in Germany. The article reviews some multi-lateral and unilateral actions
taken against terrorism. Though no major terrorist attack has occurred in Germany, the
article highlights some past potential deadly attacks such as the one by the Sauerland cell,
and ongoing threats to the country’s domestic security, intensified by recent threats made on
the Internet and via videos.

Keywords: Germany, Terrorism, Law Enforcement, Sauerland Cell, Al Qaeda